UNEP in Haiti: 2010 Year in Review

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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Renewed optimism following year of harsh environmental realities for Haiti

Port-au-Prince (Haiti), 21 April 2011 - The stark environmental challenges in Haiti during 2010 and opportunities for a more sustainable future are presented in a new publication from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

UNEP in Haiti: 2010 Year in Review recounts the efforts of UNEP, in partnership with the Government of Haiti, the UN system and others to address environmental issues compounded by the earthquake and Hurricane Tomas - ranging from severe deforestation to polluted waterways and degraded coastal and marine areas - and concludes that most of them remain unsolved.

However, according to UNEP, a range of new environmental initiatives combined with the Government of Haiti's ongoing resolve provide a path towards overcoming the country's chronic environmental issues and supporting its development priorities.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said the earthquake posed a significant setback to the efforts Haiti had been making to reverse years of environmental degradation, overcome poverty and chart a more sustainable future.

"The tragedy starkly underlined the vulnerability of people, the environment and the economy to natural disasters when the resilience of a country's ecosystems such as forests and freshwaters is already weak and compromised," Mr Steiner said.

"UNEP's goal is to reinforce the capacity and assist the people of Haiti to rebuild communities in ways that reduce its vulnerability to future shocks as part of a wider transition to a low carbon, resource efficient, job-generating Green Economy," he said.

The publication documents the efforts to mitigate the environmental impacts of the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of people and of tonnes of rubble and waste, in a nation already considered to be the most environmentally challenged in the Caribbean.

It gives an insight into the types of activities and challenges in such post-disaster settings and sets out lessons learned so that UNEP and other organizations can better understand and prepare to assist in the event of future major crises.

UNEP and its partners applied four approaches - awareness raising, coordination, technical assistance, and practical action - all with mixed success.

Environmental health issues centred around:

  • difficulties with the collection and disposal of human bodies

  • problems associated with medical waste disposal

  • uncontrolled disposal of solid waste, with extensive illegal dumping

  • massive sanitation problems in the camps for displaced people, culminating in a cholera outbreak

  • a lack of acceptable solutions for disposal or treatment of human waste, resulting in large-scale open-air dumping of human waste near crowded slum areas.

Natural resource exploitation issues involved:

  • increased deforestation for timber for construction and for fuel-wood and charcoal

  • widespread destruction of urban vegetated areas by uncontrolled settlements of displaced people

  • major reconstruction projects approved and funded without any real form of environmental impact assessment.

Approximately 60 percent of Haiti's population suffers from food insecurity, with more than half of the national food supply being imported because the level of land degradation and poor soil quality has reduced agricultural productivity.

Through the support of the governments of Norway and Ireland, UNEP has catalyzed the design and introduction of numerous initiatives in Haiti in such areas as sustainable agriculture, fisheries, ecotourism and renewable energy.

The initiatives are intended to be nationally-owned and economically self-sustaining but ongoing foreign aid will be needed for such projects to flourish in order to assist Haiti's long-term recovery.

Supported by a consortium of Haitian and international partners, including UNEP, the largest new project is the Côte Sud Initiative. Its 20-year vision is to transform the lives and livelihoods of more than 200,000 Haitians by addressing the severe poverty, environmental degradation, disaster vulnerability and limited social services which have plagued their well-being for decades.

UNEP in Haiti: 2010 Year in Review is available on the UNEP website at http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/UNEP_Haiti_2010.pdf

For more information please contact:

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson / Head of Media on Tel: +254 733 632755; Email: nick.nuttall@unep.org

UNEP Newsdesk (Nairobi) at unepnewsdesk@unep.org

Julie Marks UNEP Haiti team julie.marks@unep.org or +41 794 419 937